Ramadan: The holiest month of the year for about 1.6 billion Muslims all over the world. This is the month when the holy book of Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. So, how do Muslims celebrate? Here’s a quick look.
What is Ramadan and when does it start?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. This is the time when Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina. Not every nation agrees on the start time of this holy month. Depending on the sighting of the crescent moon, the exact time might be slightly different for some countries (usually between 12-24 hours). Once the moon is seen, Ramadan officially begins.
How do Muslims mark Islam’s holiest month?
Muslims will begin fasting from dawn to dusk for 30 days. They wake up each day before sunrise to eat “Sahari” or “Sohor”. This is a light meal that differs from country to country depending on the cuisine. Many Muslims begin the meal by eating dates as the Prophet used to do. They wait for “azan” or the call for prayer. (Muslims perform a total of 5 prayers per day.) After the first prayer, some go back to sleep and others start their day. No food or drink (of any kind) or smoking is allowed during the daylight until the sun sets. After the sunset, Muslims break their fast. For many, this is fiesta time. Muslims invite their friends and neighbors to share their “Iftar “or evening meal.
What’s the point?
For many, fasting is more spiritual than a physical exercise of faith. This is the time to measure your patience, the time to be “good” and to help others, reach out to the poor and draw closer to God. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. (The others are daily prayer, belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad, caring for the poor and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once.) Together, they make up the framework of the faith.
What happens at the end of the month?
Eid Fitr marks the last day of Ramadan. Muslims celebrate this day by feasting, giving gifts to each other and celebrating. Most countries hold mass public prayers. Fasting is prohibited on this day.
So, if you are observing this holy month, Ramadan Mubarak!
CCTV America’s Elmira Jafari occasionally blogs about Persian and Iranian culture. You can read more of her work here.